From Endurance to Dressage
I hate to make big announcements before they're a sure thing, but this one just can't wait. Each year the California Dressage Society (CDS) hosts adult amateur clinics in each of three regions - North, Central, and South. I have been selected twice in the past - you can't participate as a rider two years in a row, and I was chosen again for this year's event!
Don't be impressed by being "selected" as there is no skill requirement in being chosen. If you're a CDS member in good standing and can walk, trot, and canter, you're eligible. My CDS Chapter says they pull the names out of a hat. I am pretty sure my name has been the only one in the hat as I am generally not that lucky.
The first year I attended was in 2014. I rode with Marisa Festerling. You can read about it here and here. There's also some video that I had completely forgotten about. Wow, but have we come a long way!
For the clinic in 2017, I rode with Hilda Gurney. That was a very ... intense clinic and nothing like the first one. If you haven't read about it already and care to, you can find it here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
The clinician for this year's series of adult amateur clinics is none other than Lilo Fore. When I saw who the clinician was, I put in a "self-nomination" before our chapter chair even made the announcement. And then I prayed fervently that no one else was eligible or wanted to attend. The universe must think I need some additional help with my riding because my name was indeed selected.
The central region's clinic is at Templeton Farms near Paso Robles in mid-April. You need to check out this facility. Holy Moley, is it ever swanky!
Of course, a lot can happen between now and the clinic. Speedy is just now recovered from two abscesses. His Cushing's could cause other problems that I am not yet aware of. Or, heaven forbid, some other random thing could strike preventing us from going. And no, Universe, I don't need any more drama at this time, thank you.
Any Lilo Fore fans out there?
A weird sentiment, but it's one I believe in. I am definitely a function over form kind of girl. Who cares if something - or someone, is beautiful but useless? On the other hand, having both beauty and talent makes that someone a keeper.
Cushing's or not, showing or not, both of my boys are firmly in the camp of useful. Some days they both look pretty ragtag doing it, but what they lack in the glamour department, they definitely make up in the "work hard" department.
And then there are moments when I catch them being truly beautiful. Even when they're pasture dirty and slightly sweaty, my heart still goes pitter-patter. Beauty truly is what beauty does.
Or so thinks every horse mom!
You all know how much I value my trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. First and foremost, her teaching is sound, and horses and riders improve under her tutelage. Almost as important is her ability to promote and maintain a positive attitude within her team of students. Team Symphony is pretty drama free; not something you always see amongst a group of dressage riders.
Just over a year ago she relocated from Simi Valley to Tehachapi which is just under an hour from Bakersfield - woot! woot! Moving to Kern County meant a new group of adult amateurs and juniors joined Team Symphony.
I already have Symphony Dressage Stables emblazoned on everything from shirts and a jacket to saddle pads to vehicle stickers and even on a license plate frame. I knew Chemaine's new clients might want to sport her team logo as well, so I offered to put together a shirt order from my favorite screen printer and embroider shop, New Generation Graphics.
And so began Operation Team Jersey. I am just gonna say ... wow, was that ever hard! Even though I sent everyone links to the shirts with pricing, getting everyone organized was like herding cats. Some wanted all of us to order the same color. Most wanted to choose their own color. Some wanted long sleeves, some short. We also have a man in the group which meant I had to find a shirt for him. I finally built a spreadsheet to keep everyone's preferences organized. Friday, the last two shirts arrived.
Because I know the fit well, I have at least five of them, we ordered the Horze Trista shirt. I like this particular shirt for a variety of reasons. It's flattering for a lot of different body types. It comes in many colors and two sleeve lengths. Equally important is that the price is low enough that paying extra for the printing didn't make the shirt unreasonably expensive.
We're putting Chemaine's logo on back of the women's shirts, but the men's style shirt will have the logo emblazoned on the left chest. We chose a metallic silver ink which should look good even on the gray shirts.
I took everything to the printer yesterday afternoon. I know everyone is eager to get their shirts, even me. I bought three!
So what exactly is Cushing's Disease? Until a few weeks ago, I only knew that it was a disease that mostly affects older horses with symptoms that include long shaggy coats, pot bellies, and problems with hooves. Sort of like this guy.
Very simply - or not, Cushing's Disease, also called Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID), is a disfunction of the pituitary gland. Over time, the pituitary gland becomes over-enlarged and produces too many hormones. Not good. Ask any woman approaching 50 (cough, cough) what it feels like to have your hormones go out of whack.
In particular, horses with PPID produce too much of the hormone called the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). High levels of ACTH cause an over-production of cortisol. And since hormones have effects on many different organ systems, increased cortisol creates a variety of symptoms like:
So who gets Cushing's Disease? According to the AAEP, "the average age of horses diagnosed with PPID is 20 years, with over 85 percent of the horses being greater than 15 years of age. Although most common in aged horses, PPID has been diagnosed in horses as young as seven years of age."
I think you can see where all of this is heading. Speedy will be 15 in April. Speedy has never before had an abscess, yet in the past few weeks he's had not one, but two. My vet decided we needed to check for Cushing's Disease.
There are several ways to test for Cushing's: 1) the dexamethasone suppression test and 2) the measurement of resting plasma ACTH concentration. However, one thing to note is that the time of year the tests are done can affect the results. In the fall, horses naturally increase the production of a variety of hormones as the body prepares for winter. Fortunately for Speedy, January is a great time to check ACTH concentrations.
A normal ACTH concentration is somewhere between 10 and 50. Speedy's ACTH level came back at 56, just outside of the normal range. Some horses can have numbers above 1,000. A lot of things can affect that score - time of day, when the horse last ate, and so on. Even though Speedy's ACTH level was very close to normal, Dr. Tolley felt that it would be prudent to put him on medication.
Here's where most owners cringe and ask, "What's that going to cost?" I almost find it funny that Speedy needs a daily medication as I had just this month decided to take my boys off ALL supplements. Joke's on me I guess. The only FDA approved medication for Cushing's Disease is pergolide, brand name Prascend.
I bought Speedy's first box of 160 tablets from a friend who no longer needed it. When that box runs out, I'll need to reorder from somewhere like Allivet as Prascend is available by prescription only. It's per day cost is right around $1.75. Prascend is actually cheaper than the Platinum Performance was, so I can't complain too much.
There is a glitch of course. Pergolide is on US Equestrian's prohibited substance list. Don't even get me started on how incredibly stupid my vet found that rule. One of the worst things you can do for a Cushing's horse is to stop and restart pergolide every other week during show season.
There is good news though. As of December 1, 2018, US Equestrian will now allow pergolide if the horse has been granted a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). An explanation of the rule change can be read here.
I've already applied for a TUE, and my vet has submitted all necessary paperwork. When I phoned US Equestrian, the woman I spoke to had no idea how long it takes to be granted a TUE. She said that a panel must review my request. Way to go, US Equestrian. No timeline or answers make me feel great.
So that's it. Speedy now has Cushing's Disease which means daily medication, annual bloodwork, and of course getting that pesky TUE. Dr. Tolley wasn't too concerned and neither am I. There's just no cure for getting old.
After he bankrupts me, Speedy is clearly trying to send me to an early grave. As I came driving down the ranch driveway yesterday, I looked for him as I always do. He's easy to spot with his nearly white coat, especially this time of year as there's no foliage to hide him. When I did lay eyes on him, I could only shake my head in disgust.
Since a dirty horse doesn't really tell the whole story, let me clarify. Since Willy's move to a new home, Red Mare is Speedy's new best friend. She lives in the adjoining dry pasture. A maintenance crew has been dragging composted manure out to the bottom of her pasture, so she was temporarily moved to a small grass pasture immediately adjacent.
Even though I wasn't there, I know exactly what Speedy did (and said) about her move 50 feet to the west. He ran himself into a lather, screaming his head off all the while. She was well within sight, but he was no doubt pissed to be separated from her. His frantic gallop up and down the fence line stirred up quite a cloud of dust which is now pasted to his once white and fluffy coat.
But that wasn't the worst of it.
Why does Speedy have duct tape hanging from his hoof? I hear you ask. Well, he literally wore through several layers of duct tape as he paced the fence line wailing piteously for his lady friend. Jerk.
I peeled off what remained of the wrap and redid it. But first, I poked around at the drainage hole and was pleased to note that he didn't appear sore at all. As I walked him back to his pasture, I asked him to pick up a jog in the grass. He was very nearly sound.
Well, hallelujah. Maybe we'll be back to work sooner than I thought.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read